Snakes Alive!

Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4625I have a number of places I take visitors and friends for a ramble. A week or so ago, I took Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern, on a ride that paused at Horseshoe Lake near Olive Branch, Ill.

The little park and spillway at the south end of the lake is almost always pretty. Shari stopped to use the restroom – it’s an outhouse, but Friend Claire pronounced it acceptable on our visit last year. Shari also gave it a passing grade.

While she was otherwise occupied, LaFern and I checked out the spillway. I saw a huge fish chasing minnows as soon as I got there, but he disappeared, never to be seen again on this visit.

There were plenty of turtles, including a softshell with a neck a foot long who was snurfulling along the top of the water until he spotted us.


Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4616

This guy cruised by to the base of the spillway, then disappeared. His coloring and rounded head makes me believe he was harmless.

Moccasin, maybe?

Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4631I was less sure about this one. His body was thicker and his head was more triangular. I was ready to label him a water moccasin. Either way, I wasn’t about to dip my toe in the water.

I’m happier with turtles

Turtles Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4636I was happier to see a batch of turtles looking like they were playing on a seesaw. I count at least five on this log. (You can click on the images to make them larger.)

Ernie Chiles and I rode our bikes around the lake in 2009.


9 Replies to “Snakes Alive!”

  1. Horseshoe Lake is a fisherman’s paradise! Which explains why I have not spent a lot of time there and now I know they have snakes I know I won’t be going there for a nice swim this summer vacation.
    It is good to know there are outhouses there, I will mark that down in my travel journal, but I will skip going there for swimming.
    BTW: nice shot of the turtles, they were one of my favorite bands in the 60’s.

  2. Growing up, I can’t remember ever being in a body of water in downstate Illinois or Missouri when I didn’t see a water moccasin or two floating by. I am not phobic about snakes, but prefer not to have to sort out whether they are poisonous or not while I am swimming.

  3. Definitely a cottonmouth on the second pic. Personal experience with one in the past !!! You DO NOT want to make them mad. They come after you.

  4. Just a word to the wise for all, any snake with a triangular shape head is venomous here in the states. The snake that one must be careful of in the southern states is the Coral Snake with red, yellow and black stripes. The rhyme goes; Red next to Black, you’re okay Jack, Red next to Yellow, you’re a dead fellow. The rhyme was developed because the harmless Scarlet King snake looks similar but is the one where red and black are side by side.

  5. My brother took me fishing at Horseshoe lake. He had a fish on the line and when he reeled it in there was a snake attached to the fish. He grabbed the snake behind the head and poured some of the Jack Daniels he always took on fishing expeditions down the snakes mouth. He threw it back in figuring that much alcohol would do it in. A few minutes later we heard a bumping noise on the side of the boat and there was that snake with another fish!!! Be careful at Horseshoe Lake.

  6. You should have gone to Ouida’s for a burger. That has been a stop for years with the group of guys and gals I ride motorcycles with.

    The burgers are very good thick and done on an old cast iron griddle.

  7. Both snakes that are pictured are harmless watersnakes from the genus Nerodia (I am 100% positive). The more stout snake (second picture) is an adult female (they get a lot bigger than males). But still, I wouldn’t advise ever picking a snake up if you can’t positively ID the snake.

  8. I just wrote a long comment on here and it disappeared on me as I was getting ready to post it. I’ll shorten it. Horseshoe Lake is by far the most wonderful place I’ve ever fished in my life and not just for the fishing but for the beautiful scenery, the serenity, the quiet and relaxation. My dad took me down there every year for a week and we made several 3 day trips down each year as well. Most people don’t want to drive a long way to fish in a lake that only averaged about 3 feet deep. My dad started going to Horseshoe in 1963, and the friend of the family that got him started down there began fishing Horseshoe in 1935 and years before that was a commercial fisherman, fishing on both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He could “read” the lake like most people could read a stop sign which was great for us because his teaching and advice made fishing quite a bit better as we would often catch more bluegill and catfish than the locals. Most folks don’t want to head out on a lake that shallow with cottonmouths and other snakes being so numerous not to mention the bugs at night while we were catfishing. We finally caught on to the black light theory because it lit up our fluorescent line and kept a lot of bugs away. I saw the little debate about the snakes. I was fortunate enough to have a dad that let me bring home certain wildlife, mostly snakes, turtles, salamanders, lizards, toads, and frogs but I only had a short time to study on them because I had to take them back exactly where I got them. I just glanced at the snakes in the picture but by the coloring, and I know they come in a lot of varieties of color I would guess they were both watersnakes. Now if you ask me more than that I couldn’t tell you what kind of watersnakes as we have several different kinds. The first picture was a thin snake smaller than the second one, meaning it could have been a male and the second one a female as females typically get bigger than males just like garter snakes do. The proper name for the venomous snakes is cottonmouth and water moccasin is typically a generic name for snakes that live most of their lives around the water. My dad insisted on fishing right underneath a fallen log leaning on a cypress tree. A cottonmouth was laying out on that log getting a little sun and my dad through a cricket over there in what looked to be a perfect bluegill spot. Apparently it wasn’t but while my dad was fishing the cottonmouth who was obviously unhappy with us being that close to his log came at the boat four times. Each time it got close enough he’d take the paddle and put it under the snake and flip it away from the boat. Finally after the fourth time it gave up. Cottonmouths are more aggressive than many snakes and I’ve had watersnakes swim right up to the bank on Clinton Lake not far from where we live and stick their heads in my little minnow bucket and get a minnow and swim off. Different snakes, different spots but the same lake. The second time I was going to school and was broke so I just stood up when the watersnake got close to my feet and he turned and went back the way he came from. Like I said I would agree with the person who said both snakes in the pictures were watersnakes. He/she should cut the percent down a little. Not quite 100 percent I’ve seen a lot of different shades on cottonmouths and the first one was thinner, it’s tail came to a point and it’s head wasn’t up out of the water nearly as high as the one in the second picture. The one in the first picture had a typically non-venomous snake head that is just slightly shaped like a triangle but the second one had a lot more of a triangular shape, was much thicker (typically females are like that) but that tail looked like it was thicker and more rounded which is typical of a cottonmouth. Whoever said to leave the snakes alone if you can’t identify them is a wise person. Thank you all for the interesting discussion.

    1. Kenny,

      Glad this one didn’t disappear. Good info. We had a farm pond down Hwy 61 north of Benton. Good fishing, but full of snakes. I pulled up the stringer one time and found a cottonmouth hanging on it. I decided he wanted that stringer more than I did.

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